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at a desk in front of a PC is no way to enjoy digital photos, MP3 music
files and videos. It's far better to watch and listen to PC-based media
while curled up on a couch in the living room. We check out Neuston's
Virtuoso MC-500 - currently the only network media player compatible
with Windows, Mac OSX and Linux PCs
Network media players
allow video, stills and music held on a PC to be enjoyed on a home entertainment
system in the living room via a wired or wireless network connection
- doing away with the need to have a noisy, ugly PC in the room.
Our first taste of what this offers was from Pinnacle's £199 (inc
VAT) ShowCenter - and we were impressed. However, the ShowCenter only
plays back content from a PC running Windows XP/2000, whereas the media
player we're looking at here - Neuston's Virtuoso MC-500 - is said to
be compatible not only with XP/2000, but also with Win ME/98, Mac OSX
As we went to press, the MC-500 was still not on sale in the UK, but
the SRP looks set to be £249. However, Skunkworks, Neuston's Australian
distributor, is able to supply to the UK for £189 all up (even
The MC-500 is a stylish, lightweight, metallic-grey box about the size
of a digital TV receiver, and doesn't look out of place on top of a
TV set. It comes with a slim IR remote handset for accessing and playing
back content or surfing the web.
Operational lights at the front of the MC-500 show power, an active
Lan or wireless connection (10/100), and whether or not an active Lan
cable is connected. At front left there's a PCMCIA card slot for a 802.11b
16-bit wireless network card, meaning that it's not possible to use
the faster 802.11g 32-bit cards capable of delivering higher bit-rate
Given that the MC-500 works with Mac and Linux PCs, and - it's said
- all flavours of Windows from 98 to XP, it's likely to appeal to a
considerably wider range of users than Pinnacle's more limited Win XP/2K-only
ShowCenter. We found processor usage on all NMC servers was low during
playback and would expect the same to be true with Win 98/ME PCs, so
the lower spec typical of such machines shouldn't be a problem.
We found it easy to understand the NMC software and navigation of the
MC-500's menus, but were hindered by the rather unresponsive IR remote.
Mac users will be pleased they'll be able to manage music and photos
from the familiar surroundings of iTunes and iPhoto, and not have to
learn another interface.
But users need to experiment to work out what video formats the MC-500
can handle, what encoding software to use and which give the best viewing
quality. Neuston needs to help out here to make life easier and also
needs to seriously address Linux setup issues - the fact that Linux
users are typically very technically clued up is no excuse.
We'd also like to see the addition of support for WMV media and for
fast 802.11g wireless cards able to handle video at higher bit-rates,
along with the ability to watch video at resolutions greater than 720
x 576 pixels.
Clearly, the MC-500 isn't perfect but, nonetheless, we were delighted
that it gave us access to PC-based digital media on three platforms
from the comfort of the living room, and also that - with the right
footage - the viewing experience was so good.
Read the full review
in September 2004's Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in this issue:
Layer DVD+R9 burners and software
Primera Bravo II DVD
Apple DVD Studio Pro 3
Neuston Virtuoso MC-500
Canopus ProCoder 2
In September's news:
upgraded to V2.5
Faster, low-cost editing Macs
Matrox Premiere Pro 1.5 drivers
Sorenson squeezes further
Really cool Apple Power Mac
Boris professional FX
Digital arts from onedotzero
Cheaper, faster Mac portables
Formac FireWire hard disks
Edius goes high-end High Def
Steinberg V5 audio updates